Quick Roundup 207

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Slavery in China

Am I the only one out there who finds it ironic that officials from a Communist government are cracking down on slavery?

Authorities in northern China have arrested five people accused of starving and beating workers at a brick kiln to keep them enslaved, state media reported Monday.

The suspects were arrested for "illegally holding and deliberately injuring laborers ... and forcing them to do highly intensive manual labor," the official Xinhua News Agency said. [bold added]
Oh. That's right. If they had been legally holding laborers and forcing them to perform manual labor, it would have been okay. Silly me.

This is the same sort of context-dropping behind the various efforts to combat the retail purchase of votes in America through "earmarks" -- while ignoring such wholesale purchase methods as Social Security and other entitlement spending. What difference does it make if the commies halt some "illegal" slave operation when they're still running the world's largest slave pen. And so what if we halt the building of a "bridge to nowhere" if we still end up bankrupting the whole country through the Social Security system?

Mere skirmishes that focus only on the most egregious abuses of government power distract energy and attention from the war that must actually be fought, the war for the abolition of all government activities that do not protect individual rights.

The Chinese authorities know this. They know that they can say, "See. We are against slavery," and probably get away with it. The so-called "pork busters" are worse in the sense that they are helping perpetuate the frauds they should really be angry about.

Repeat after me: All slavery is wrong. All theft is wrong.

V1@gr/\ by Any Other Name...

Via Arts and Letters Daily, I found an interesting article about the arms race between spammers and email account administrators. I thought the analogy Brian Hayes drew between spam filters and natural immune systems was interesting, and think his conclusion is a good one:
Diseases tend to evolve from an epidemic to an endemic state. For the first population exposed, the infection is dire and deadly; later, everyone gets a little sick but survives. It's not really in the pathogen's interest to kill the host; and although the host might well like to exterminate the disease, that seldom happens. The future of spam may be a low-grade fever.
This eight-time winner of the UK NATIONAL LOTTERY and dabbler in sub-Saharan African finance certainly hopes so. I have better things to spend my millions on.

My joke raises an interesting issue beyond the scope of the article. Spammers exist because a small, but significant portion of the populace is so credulous or dishonest that all it takes to sucker them is to dangle under their noses for a moment the prospect of unearned wealth or some quick fix to "all their problems".

People like this never will go completely away, but to the extent that our culture encourages people not to think critically or long-range, it contributes to such annoying cultural phenomena as spam by creating a larger customer base than there might be otherwise.

Glenn Reynolds's Gorge-asm

I generally enjoy Instapundit and find the blog to be invaluable for keeping up with current events, but I never cease to be amazed at how its author immediately goes gaa-gaa the moment anything to do with "global warming" comes up. Take this short post:
A LOOK AT CHINA'S Three Gorges Dam. Hey, it's greenhouse-friendly power. Plus, it's easy to bomb so it's a hostage against war with Taiwan! Greenhouse-friendly power for peace!
Not only does this completely overlook the fact that the Chi-Comms forced over a million people to relocate for the project (destroying some of the world's most beautiful property in the process), it isn't even true that the dam is a "hostage against war with Taiwan".

This notion ignores how America has "fought" ever since the end of the second World War. Our leaders would not even consider bombing this dam for fear of harming "civilians", even if they realized that doing so to protect Taiwan would genuinely be in America's best interest -- not that America's best interest is really a major motivator for very many of them anymore.

And what of the notion that someone else might bomb the dam? Call me crazy, but I somehow doubt that the Chinese government would worry too much about the dam being bombed if it thought that it could increase the size of its pile of loot on balance by taking over Taiwan.

One thing is for sure: You can't accuse Professor Reynolds of not drinking the green Kool-Aid he sells.

America Underground

By coincidence, I received an email from reader Dismuke on an archaeological find of an 1870's saloon in Corsicana, Texas, on the same day I watched a TiVo-suggested installment of Weird U.S. about various underground historical sites in the United States:
The 1920s-style street front stores that line downtown Corsicana capture a portrait in time. Below the streets, there's a portrait in time that hasn't seen the light of day in quite some time.


After more digging, both in the dirt and through historical documents, Hocker found out that underneath his restaurant, the Black Jack Mccandless Steak House and Saloon on Beaton Street, was originally the Bismarck saloon in 1872 - it came in shortly after the railroad came into Navarro County.

Margarett Parsons owns an antique shop next door. She has an old picture of what the Bismarck may have looked like inside. She describes the black and white photograph with a man dressed in a bowtie, "That was my grandfather, and he was bartender at one of the bars that was in this block, but I'm not sure which building."

Young says the basement saloon predates prohibition. After some initial research, he believes the street-level floor of the Bismarck burned down, and the basement was filled in with dirt, and covered with concrete. Exactly when, he's not sure. He also says there have been rumors that there are other underground rooms just like this one, and that there are tunnels that connect the rooms, "We don't know what's here. We just touched the surface."
The episode of Weird U.S. (which is not listed in their episode guide) described several very old subterranean sites across the United States, all open to tourism, including: Portland, Oregon's Shanghai Tunnels; Seattle Underground; scuba diving at the abandoned and flooded Bonne Terre lead mine; and St Paul, Minnesota's Wabasha Street Caves, which housed a speakeasy during Prohibition and a night club to this day. Very interesting show. Look for it on the History Channel.

Mesmerizing Advertisement

Hand me the remote and wireless Internet and watch me waste my time twice as efficiently....

Curious about the Japanese candy advertisement that subliminally triggered River Tam in Serenity, which I watched on DVD over the weekend, I stumbled across this old Louis Vuitton ad, created by Takashi Murakami.

The commercial, which played in a loop in the company's Japanese stores a few years ago, tells a short, whimsical story about a little girl who ends up in a Wonderland-like world while waiting for friends in front of a store. I enjoyed the whimsical aspects of the story, but found the rather circumscribed ability of the little girl to act on her volition somewhat disturbing, even keeping in mind that this is a children's story. (The story starts out with what amounts to an abduction and ends rather magically.)

I don't have the time or inclination to lay out in full my thoughts on this ad (which aren't completely settled yet, anyway), but this piece helped me realize that truly benevolent fiction requires a level of volition appropriate to the context of its major characters. Otherwise, they are prisoners no matter how cuddly or spectacular their surroundings are.

Oh yeah. The candy ad. It turns out that I should've gone first to Wikipedia rather than YouTube. There, I learned about an "Easter egg" on the DVD that provides access to a short discussion about the making of the ad.

And now, I have to get that bloody jingle out of my head again!

-- CAV


: (1) Two edits for clarity in last section, one in the first. (2) Corrected a typo.


Joel said...

I found an interesting interview with Takashi Murakami, who did the ad featured above, on Artkrush. Check it out.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you Joel. I suspect that readers will find its link to this NY Times article most helpful if they wish to read further about this artist.